Enthused by the demo for Mafia 2 I decided to have a go at Grand Theft Auto IV a game I bought in a Steam Sale but never installed. I guess I was hoping to indulge in a bit of criminal role playing in a massive meticulously crafted open world game.
Things started out well. I am an Eastern European immigrant enticed to the USA by my cousin's tales of instant riches. Needless to say my cousin turns out to be full of bullshit. He drives a clapped out Taxi cab and his irresponsible gambling has put him in debt to a seedy money lender. Blood being thicker than water I stick up for my cousin when the money lender sends some thugs around to extract the cash. I can hold my own in a fight but I didn't come to the States to descend into petty crime. It is clear that my cousin is a loser and I am going to have to make my own may in this melting pot of a city. About the only good thing to have happened to me so far is that I met a nice girl called Michelle. We went out bowling and I think she likes me. Perhaps we will see each other again.
So far so good. Playing GTA IV made me realise how much I enjoy the role play aspect of games like this. I really crave good immersion. Unfortunately things went downhill a bit soon after this. The first thing to really bug me was the thorny issue of transport. Even the earliest missions pretty much require that you have a car but as a new immigrant with $50 in his pocket I surely couldn't afford my own car. Rocko lets me drive his cab occasionally but a lot of the time I am left walking. Soon I realised that I am supposed to steal cars, which turns out to be laughably easy to do. That is a big problem right there. I am just off the boat. I am not a criminal yet why would I go around stealing cars?
It is too early for me to pass definitive judgement but at least the bit I have played so far has made me realise what I want from a game like this. I want to believe in my character and his story. I want immersion most of all. The original Mafia gave me that in a way that GTA III never did. I just hope that Mafia IV pulls it off in the same way.